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Let us be careful, before damning the Turks - The Stadler Haymaker missed its target.

Reader comment on item: Islamist Turkey vs. Secular Iran?
in response to reader comment: Turks in Austria

Submitted by Michel C. Zala (Switzerland), Dec 6, 2010 at 16:22

If you have read some of my pieces, you will know, how critical I am in all things concerning Islam and most of all Islamism.

I do share with most of you my concerns about the recent trends in Turkey under Erdogan, after all, the first Muslim Politician to severly condemn the Minaret Initiative in Switzerland with harsh words up to and not limited to boycotting Swiss exports. As US/Swiss Citizen I feel doubly angered by his anti-American politics and rethoric in terms of Iraq.

However, I have visited Turkey several times during the last decade and can't help but having a much more optimistic outlook for this nation, than for instance Dr. Pipes. (Please see also my earlier comment to this article).

Fact of the matter is, that many, many Turks have successfully integrated throughout Europe, mainly Germany, Austria, Switzwerland, Scandinavia and even the UK. Many close encounters in Switzerland, Germany, Austria and the US with this large minority only confirm my impression. Most speak the difficult German language, heck, here even accent free Swiss - something even German Immigrants, a close neighbor/cousin in all things cultural, oftentimes fail to manage. As opposed to for instance the muslim ghettos in Marseille, Paris, London, Birmingham, where the national language and culture seem to be banned and these ghettos do remind the observer of the closed knit communities in US capitals from Chinatown in SF, Koreatown in LA to Mexican cities within cities or Little Cuba in Miami - all those literally enclaves within another nation- such does rarely exist with regard to the Turkish minorities in western countries.Or to a way lower extent.

Yes, there are admittedly fanatics, orthodox Turks living here, practicing archaic rituals and habits (arranged marriage, treatment of women etc.), but according to pretty much all sources, they comprise a small minority among Europeans of Turkish origin with every generation of young turks behaving increasingly like typical European teenagers.

Naturally the left wing, liberal dominated press during this climate of (justified) Islamophobia will scandalize any such occurrence, as they for instance in the US artificially hyped up this American nutjob pastor, who intended to burning the Quran in public. Eventhough this hillybilly has a congregation of just about a few dozen followers, his plans nevertheless made the frontpages of literally all leftist liberal kumbajah Media, such as the NY Times, as "proof" for the growing Islamophobic trend in the USA.The same could be said of the European Media, where 3 Mio fanatics in Tehran, screaming "death to all Infidels" prior to the recent middle east peace talks, barely made the news agency tickers. Talk about media bias...

While the latter clearly does not reflect the reality of the American Society, where any (religious) minority enjoys a wide-spread tolerance, and literally nobody disputes the legal right of the muslim community to build a religious center near Ground Zero, but simply clamors for a bit of sensitivity and tolerance of the Muslims to exercise moderation and consideration for the victims- slain after all in the name of Allah- John Steward, MSNBC and the liberal left Media and political elite in DC most cynically (ab-)use such surreal examples from the outermost fringe as justification to create and hype up the notion of a seemingly decaying free westernsociety, undermined by a growing right wing, tea party fascism, something which clearly does not reflect the actual reality of mainstream America, but is an outrageous and blatant slant and distortion of the the truth by left wing propaganda and ideologues.

Admittedly a similar slant and distortion of the reality must be acknowledged in regard to news about the Turkish communities in Europe, where in fact a vast majority of millions of Turkish emigrants are living quite well assimilated and integrated throughout the societies, rarely causing friction, let alone are carriers of radical islam.

Hence, the speech of Mr. Stadler, while reflecting the sentiments of a growing number of alarmed people and politicians with regard to Islamism in the West correctly, missed the mark nevertheless. It was the right speech, however addressing the wrong target.

I myself doubt the existence of "Moderate Islam", as by design no "real" Muslim according to the definition in the Quran can be moderate without evidently severely compromising on muslim dogma, hence must be and usually is being considered by muslim scholars as blasmheme. Albeit, if there was indeed a Muslim, living and prospering within the framework of a western society without much friction or causing widespread cultural warfare, then the people of Turkish origin, living in predominantly German speaking nations in the West, must come to mind first and foremost. I have yet to see a Turkish movement anywhere in Europe, calling for implementing Sharia law or Turkish Imams promoting hatred or even violence. Islamism in Europe stems from centers and Mosques funded by the Saudis and Imams of middle eastern, heck even American origin (Birmingham). I do further not know of any terror organization operating abroad being supported by Turkey. (Please do correct me, if I am wrong).

I will go as far as to dare to venture, that the Turks in Europe in many ways represent a solid step in the right direction of peaceful co-habitation and cooperation. I have not seen them behaving much more differently than any other minority in the US or the very "successful", outspoken, radical, aggressive muslim demography in the UK or France, which in fact would have been the right target for Mr. Stadler's speech.

Mr. Stadler was rightfully angry about remarks made by the Turkish Ambassador, clamoring about growing anti-Turk sentiments in Austria, thus indeed kind of throwing with stones, while sitting in a glasshouse himself, something Stadler sarcastically pointed out. Certainly rather dumb remarks, causing Stadler's rethorical ejaculation and quite populisitic, simplistic haymaker.
(by the way....it wasn't that good of a speech, if one understands the German language...there are much more eloquent speakers in Europe like Daniel Hannan for instance)
I will respect however that Stadler is another of the few politicians, daring to be politically incorrect, which is indeed refreshing during this wide-spread western climate of political correctness.

What the Turkish Ambassador should have done instead of grosso modo complaining about the treatement of muslims in Austria, is to point out the dramatic and significant differences in the behaviour of the Turks in Europe, compared to other muslim factions, for instance in the UK with muslims of middle eastern origin and massively funded by Saudi Petrodollars. Instead of clamoring about Austrian Injustice in dealing with Muslims in general, this Turkish apparatchik should have called the injustice towards Turks specifically, bunching them in with all the other islamists, to question. In that case he would have been on the mark, as indeed there is a clear and present difference, deserving to be explored in more detail.

Mr. Stadler on the other hand, forgetting and omitting utterly, that this Ambassador followed (as required by his own current hysterical government) the Erdogan party line and certainly did not represent or reflect the sentiments of all the Turkish people, in typical Hitler, right wing polemic fashion swung for the fences, while he should have and could have focused on Islamistic radicals within Austria, instead of antagonizing a whole minority, a proud and decent people after all, for decades now trying to associate with the West. He thus created even more fuel for the Erdogan line in Turkey to amplify resentment against the West and oppose integration into the EU.

He meant the horse, but hit the rider. He was right, if he addressed his speech to Islamists, but he directed his message to the wrong people by condemning the Turks above all and indiscriminately, thus likely instilling even more resentment in exactly the demographic, which may very well prove to be the literal foot in the door with regard to Moderate Islam and reform from within. Dr. Pipes conclusion, that a solution for Islamism can only come from within the Muslim world, is spot-on, but I would take this notion a step farther, as I believe that this solution will come from Turkey.

As mentioned before the Turks have been (rightfully or not, subject of a separate debate) been rebuffed from entering the EU, while Greece and even former Jugoslawian nations were allowed to do so. These rebukes were perceived by the Turkish people as an insult and created logically emotional resentment within this proud, patriotic people, who in fact contribute to the overall prosperity within many western nations, such as Germany. I mentioned in my earlier piece, how connected the turkish families are, how strong the ties were between a prospering Turkish minority, living in Europe and the by a traditional inferiority complex plagued population in Turkey proper. Growing resentment against Europe due to continuously slamming the door in front of the nose of the Turks (their perception), became an almost logical, albeit mainly emotional not ideology based reaction, resulting in the evidently growing popularity of a radical Islamist like Erdogan. But... while he obviously is riding this wave of resentment successfully at present... such waves usually pass.

It is not too late to accept the idea that Turkey should be treated differently from other nations with Islamic culture. Istanbul is still a vibrant capital, similar to any western City and inhabited by a population comparable to Cairo in the early 20th century. Turkey still has all the instruments of democracy, elections, processes and procedures similar to any western nation, albeit still in its infancy and at present in danger of being eroded by this reactionary trend.

Verbal haymakers, like the one delivered by Stadler, are not productive in terms of constructive criticism and to instilling, nurturing and amplifying a healthy influx of western societal achievements. Instead of generally damning and villifying this specific nation and its people, the West should take advantage of its close ties to this one muslim nation with a proud history which is so strongly intertwined with ours to such a way higher extent than any of the other muslim nations.

Bundling this nation with Islamists everywhere else, seems to be contra-productive and will only strengthen the position of the likes of Erdogan, who are indeed seeking closer ties to an increasingly radical fundamentalistic Muslim world, while concurrently working towards severing these historically strong connections, (democratic) institutions and networks with Europe in place now for generations.

Turkey is still salvageable, if we stop treating them arrogantly like a third world country. Quite actually, they seem to be in much better shape than for instance Ireland or Greece at present, something we oftentimes fail to acknowledge. All that, after all, without income from fossil fuels. If Europe would make a strong effort to treat Turkey with the respect they actually deserved, due to their predominantly positive development in the last decades, the trend towards Islamism could very well be reversed from within, as there is a freely operating political opposition and a strong desire to be on the same level, as any European Nation.

Aforementioned reasons lead me to believe that any key to "Moderate Islam", lays with the Turks, who in many ways, on many dimensions, cultural, economical, strategic, heck geographical are the true bridge between the West and the muslim World. If we do not manage to embrace this nation and help them towards becoming a true secular democracy within the EU, thus not only enriching Europe, but actually granting us a bridge head versus an increasingly radical islamistic block, all efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, to build other model states from the ground up, all efforts to sustain the few other possible moderate trends in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt or Indonesia, will be a losing battle.

In other words: If we fail with Turkey, if Turkey fails, even though the West has so many options there, as no other muslim nation is closer to us on so many levels, we must and will surely fail in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq to Indonesia and Malaysia. If Moderate Islam can not find a sustainable base in Turkey, from whence it may expand, it has a snowball's chance in hell to find a home anywhere else within the muslim world. Nowhere else are the frame parameters even close to be thus advantagous. Moderate Islam will in fact remain nothing else than a Fata Morgana, as so many amongst our readers fear, and a war of cultures would become unavoidable.

The infancy of the war between cultures will in that case undoubtedly evolve to full on military conflict. In order to prevent such further bloodshed, Attaturk's lab experiment of a secular state with a predominantly muslim population must succeed and the current islamist trend must be reversed. This however requires a considerate diplomacy, a scalpel rather than the sledgehammer. Mentoring, guidance and leading by example, rather than indiscriminate condemnation, as manifested by Stadler's outburst. In Turkey's case all indices point towards a needed western strategy of diplomacy and strengthening the ties between Europe (EU) and Turkey. Terror of Turkish origin does not (yet) exist. Erdogan can still become a passing trend, as Obamaniacy has been nothing but an interference in the US and will go down in history as an insignificant administration.

If we however allow the islamophobic hysteria to go overboard and continue to pass out indiscriminate judgment against even the many undeserving Turks, who so far were well on their way, compared to most other muslim nations, we will lose an opportunity for the literal foot in the door.

I reiterate, that any chance for reform or enlightenment within Islam stems not only from within the muslim culture, but from Turkey itself. This nation can become the focal point and incubator for urgently needed change, a model for Islam as a religion within the framework of a western style democracy, separated from the government.

Turkey is to my humble opinion still at the treshold of joining the free world. After hundreds of years in the tight grip of Islam with all the dire consequences on prosperity and individual freedom, we should applaude their achievements and employ a bit of consideration and a diplomacy based upon constructive criticism, rather than ignoring the complexities of this specific society and hammering them continuously on their admittedly existing deficiencies. The current anti-western trend is, while surely deplorable, a stringent, somewhat understandable emotional reaction to clumsy western politics, creating a perception in Turkey of being ostracised, barred and shunned by a Europe they aspire to join as equals. But, by no means should this current wave of anti-western rethoric be seen as representing the majority of the people or an irreversible fait accompli. The Turks are not Saudis, and it is time we understand that difference and the reality on the ground. At this point, I invite readers from Turkey to comment on my statements about the mood and sentiments towards Europe. Am I wrong?

As opposed to the many commentators here, I dare to hammer the point back, how Turkey may be the potential incubator for Moderate Islam. If there was any chance for the urgently needed reform of this archaic religion, any chance for a true movement towards so-called moderate Islam, odds are that it will originate from precisely this nation I consider to be on the brink of a beginning potential enlightenment of the muslim kind. Turkey lays on many dimensions on the demarcation line, in the buffer zone between Islam and Judeo-Christianity. This one nation like no other, where Islam meets the West, the litmus test of successfully merging Islam with superior democratic, capitalistic ideology is happening, as I write these lines. Am I too naive?

Europe can contribute to Erdogan and Islamism becoming a passing moment in Turkish history, as McCarthyism has come and gone in the USA, Communism has imploded in Russia or the Nazis in Germany were defeated. I feel that the fruits of a capitalistic democracy have already been enjoyed by too many people to reverse the overall trend line.

While I do not see any chance for a foreseeable removal of the Iranian Theocracy from within, as Religion plus Ideology there go hand in hand and the base, from which Islamists can recruit is growing, not shrinking, I am convinced that in Turkey democracy has grown roots and has taken hold, which can by no ideology fully be eradicated anymore. Once individualism, liberty, freedom, prosperity have been enjoyed to some extent, these values have the same tendency to take hold indefinitely, as unfortunately the vicious evil machine of religion plus ideology plus political apparatus in support of it, we presently see in Iran, has become thus deeply entrenched throughout the fabric of Iranian society, it may no longer be possible to overcome from within.

(In order to pre-empt the argument by those who believe that the Islamic revolution in Iran happened in spite of prosperity and capitalism during the Shah regime, hence our western principles can be overcome by Islamism, it is my opinion that Iran during that period can not be described as a nation with the structures and system of a western democracy. The Shah regime, while somewhat capitalistic in nature, was a far cry from a free society and must be qualified as a brutal dictatorship with a small, rich upper class and a poor majority of blue collars.If there had been a true western style democracy, it is my strong belief, that Khomeini would have never stood a chance.)

After almost all significant societal changes, such as the removal of the communist system in Russia, phases and periods of reactionary trends followed for a time, as for instance recently demonstrated in Russia by growing sentiments of the old grandeur, expressed for example by the Georgia invasion or the rethoric by the Putin Administration, sounding like the former propaganda spewed out by Pravda during the high time of the Sovjets.

Two steps forward, one step back has almost always been our own development towards truly free, liberal, democratic societies.

Quite actually, we may well experience at present our own step back, considering some circumstantial evidence like:

the current interventionistic big government control and patronizing in America with an increasingly polarized society,
the wide-spread corruption exemplified by the likes of Berlusconi in Italy or Sarkozy in France,
the emergence of a political elite which no longer represents its people, but is solely focused on re-elections,
the perversion and degeneration of Judeo-Christian moral values and principles, sacrificed on the altar of political correctness,
a time, where separation of church and state is being interpreted as elimination of cultural traditions up to and not limited to Crosses in the landscape and greeting cards no longer wishing you a Merry Christmas,
a Zeitgeist, where
some left wing/ACLU fanatics in the US want to eliminate the "one nation under God" reference from the American Pledge of Allegiance, or even the Dollar bill, as such may have a "religious" undertone,
where it is no longer appropriate or accepted behavior to honor any western tradition and culture even remotely based upon our own Christian tradition,
where our children are no longer being taught the basic principles of the ten commandments for fear that our principle of separation of church and state is being "compromised",
where we in the western world are plagued by an explosive rise of gangs (140,000 Gang members in LA alone),
where the drug trade has a higher GDP than the average country,
a time, where we do no longer seem to have the strength and will to stand up and fight for what is right, but rather engage in appeasement and kumbajah and reduction of our own armed forces (Europe), thus strengthen highly motivated, energized, fanatical and determined mortal enemies of everything we hold dear (Islamism, Iran, NK,)

or, to stay on topic, a period, where hysterical islamophobia throughout the western world prevails, which no longer differentiates between Turkey and Iran as exmple, but lashes out against everything and everyone remotely muslim.

As we ourselves, as indicated by some symptoms listed above, may well be in the middle of a period of a step backwards in our own development, Erdogan and Islamism in Turkey could as well be seen as a hopefully passing trend. To simply negate the overall positive evolution of the Turkish society since Attaturk goes too far, as it, I feel, may be another symptom of our own step backwards after much forward movement.

While I myself will concede the many valuable points, Pipes and others make with regard to a growing danger of Islamism in Turkey, I nevertheless call for a differentiation in our dealings with the muslim world and tone specifically with regard to Turkey. There is a difference between Turkey and the real threats to our culture, originating from and being supported by Iran (also via proxies of the likes of Taliban, islamists in Pakistan, Lebanon or Palestine) , Lybia, Syria or Saudi Arabia (the most hideous, as it pretends to be an ally), to name just the most bitter and fanatic enemies of all things western.

As my headline says - Stadler made a lot of valid arguments, representing the mood and sentiments of a growing demography of concerned throughout the West, but he sadly directed his words towards the wrong audience with possibly a contra-productive effect. Villifying the Turks grosso modo is not only a gross injustice, but will only create more resentment in exactly the one muslim nation, which may well be the key to reform of Islam and thus the key to a future understanding and coexistence of our culture and an enlightened form of Islam. Clumsy polemic diplomacy vis a vis the Turks may well prove to destroy any chance so ever for "Moderate Islam".

In conclusion, I will admit my personal admiration, love and respect for this nation, I was blessed to visit on several occasions for business and privately. I studied its history and feel sorry for the many negative effects Islam caused for hundreds of years now. However, sitting during sunset in Istanbul on a plaza, taking in the vibrant life of a beautiful city while smoking an apple tobacco water pipe, sipping strong turkish coffee, one can not help but feel optimistic for the future of Turkey. The daily life clearly proves to me, how our superior western system of individualism, freedom, capitalism and democracy could function in a nation with a muslim population. Rarely have I come across fanaticism or religiously motivated resentment towards this blue eyed, fair headed Infidel, who never would leve the safe haven of a western business district in neither Mexico City, nor Riad, Tehran or Tripoli, let alone Bagdad, Damaskus or even nowaday's Cairo.

Nobody needs to feel treathened, when travelling the Turkish countryside. One encounters friendliness, hospitality and openness as opposed to so many other muslim nations, where one at all times must look over one's shoulder. Yes, I concur, that Islamism is a present danger, but I strongly believe that the Turkish people have enjoyed already too many of the advantages of a free society to allowing for a free-fall back to the medieval oppression.

I myself am a Christian of Jewish origin, American Republican & Tea Party member, who supports and promotes even military action against Iran, in order to avoid a desaster. I am also Swiss, who voted to adopt the Minaret Initiative in Switzerland. I am one of the concerned, outspoken critics of most Muslim nations, heck, even Islam itself. Having said that, the punchline of my entire argument remains:

If I can be optimistic about Turkey and its future as proud, prospering member of the EU and the one nation, where Moderate Islam may have a slim chance to originate from, maybe there is in fact an opportunity here for this fragile lab experiment to work out.

The Israelis have figured this out a while ago. Let us not make the mistake and allow for their current political elite to get entrenched. A unique chance is presented to us here - all it takes is a bit of differentiation, when debating the muslim world, as pushing the Turks as a whole further into the arms of eager Islamists could prove to be a devastating mistake.

We, especially in Europe, can contribute to making Erdogan and the current movement a footnote in Turkish history. By employing a considerate diplomacy vs Turkey, by differentiating, acknowledging the unique role they could play and their achievements thus far. Seeing the glass half full, when debating this nation, should be warranted. Embracing Israel and Turkey into the EU as equal and enriching members seems to me critical in order to nurture positive developments. As opposed to Iran and most other muslim nations, where Islamism will be and/or will become the dominant force for decades to come, in Turkey, there is a chance, a glimmer of hope.

While many readers in this forum may call me naive or controversial, since the content of my piece may be perceived as going against the mainstream of the sentiments and concerns vis-a-vis all things muslim, I nevertheless would love to hear from Turks living in Turkey and abroad. Since after all I am a foreigner and many of my impressions are subjective in nature, I wonder, if Turks themselves support or reject my depiction of their society, intentions and ambitions. Is Islamism in Turkey a passing trend, or is Dr. Pipes on the mark and I just another naive westerner, who has been tricked to see the glass half full?

It seems to me too early to passing judgement on this nation. I thank the jury for its patience working through my closing arguments in defense of the nation of Turkey. Using my analogy, I am willing to learn from the prosecution, as I am eager to hear from the defendant.


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